Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Photoshop tip - variation on a theme 1

In my Cropping tips for business card design I started off with a big photograph and cropped it down to business card size, like this:

I've looked at more than a few business card templates that use a photograph as a background. Stock photography is useful, and it is easy. One common problem with using a photograph in a business card design is the need to overlay the photo with text. Although many stock photo compositions naturally provide an appropriate dark or light blank area for overprinting text in a contrasting color, many do not. The common solution I've seen other designers use in this situation is to select an matching color for a superimposed gradient fade. Like this:

The main problem with this technique is that it looks cheesy. It looks like someone spray painted over the right side of the photo. The transition from the organic texture of the photograph to the flat monotone of the gradient is obviously artificial.

One solution to this problem is this. Starting with the same green gradient fade to transparency shown above, switch the Photoshop layer mode from 'Normal' to 'Color Burn', and reduce the opacity setting for that layer.

I also duplicated the gradient fade layer, left the mode as 'Normal' and lowered the opacity setting. This is the result:

To my eye, this has a superior appearance. It looks like an unaltered photograph with a naturally occurring dark shadow area perfect for overlying white text.

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